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Ki Explained | A Note for Beginners | Five Principles for learning Ki | Ki Principles

Developing Ki

Ki Explained

Ki is universal energy, capable of infinite expansion and contraction. It can be directed but not contained by the mind. The basic principles of Ki reveal a way of bringing to light one's natural strengths and hidden abilities. If you learn the concept of Ki in daily life, you will in turn develop practical and creative new applications of these principles in the areas of your own expertise.

Relaxation exercises, breathing methods, meditation, Kiatsu therapy, bokken (wooden sword) and jo (wooden staff) are studied to master Ki principles. The development and understanding of Ki is an integral component of Aikido.


Four basic principles for mind and body unification:
Keep one point.
Relax completely.
Keep weight Underside.
Extend Ki.

Aikido is a moving art. The ability to move gracefully in response to the uke's attack is an integral part of performing all Aikido techniques. Keeping this goal in mind, it is therefore beneficial to perform exercises which develop the body's ability to move in a centred and coordinated manner.

One of the activities, which may be used to develop the sense of unified motion, is fune-kogi undo, or the "row boat" exercise. Standing in left hanmi (stance; standing with the left foot forward), place your hands at the sides of your hips, palms facing towards the back, with your fingers cupped in a circle. Your thumb should be lightly touching the index finger. Imagine that you are holding the oars of a boat in your cupped hands.

The movements begins by slightly pushing the hips forward, with the upper body following and maintaining a basically upright position, until the front knee is beginning to come over the top of the foot, but not past the foot. As the motion of the hips is about to end, thrust out both hands from the hips as if you are pushing the oars forward. The arms should be slightly bent at the end of this motion, and still relaxed.

After the completion of the forward movement, bring the hips backward in the same manner as before until they return to the starting position. As they near the end of the motion, the hands are pulled back together as if pulling on the oars. When starting out, perform the exercise to a count of 1-2-3-4, e.g. hips-hands-hips hands. After you have the hang of performing the motion smoothly, you may progress to a count of 1-2, e.g. forward backward (with hand motions).

If you like, you may have a partner test you by gently pressing forward on the small of your back during the forward motion to see whether you are leaning too far forward. If the partner grabs you by the wrists from the front, you may test the amount of forward extension and balance you are achieving on each forward and backward movement.

A related exercise is ikkyo undo. This involves the same hip motion as fune-kogi, but the hand motion is different. The hands begin hanging loosely at the sides in a natural bend. As the hip motion is nearing completion on the forward swing, the hands swing up on both sides until they are approximately at eye level and extended forward. Next the hands swing back down, with the hips picking up the motion to complete the backward cycle. Therefore the movement count for ikkyo undo might be described as hips-hands-hands-hips.

Rolling backwards and forwards from a cross-legged sitting position is also a good Ki development activity. begin the roll backward by gently releasing the hips, moving back from the one point. As you come back forward, extend you mind forward, returning to an upright sitting position. Once you've achieved a feeling of balance in basic rolling, you may progress to rolling backwards, coming forward and standing up. As you come, forward extend one leg forward and extend your mind forward as if to shake someone's hand outstretched in front of you. You will find it surprisingly easy to stand. If you try the exercise without extending your mind, you will find standing very difficult.


A Note for Beginners

First of all, let yourself relax and have a good time. It is normal to be nervous. Everyone you see in the dojo has gone through exactly the same thing. For everyone - even the sensei - there was a day when they first stepped onto the mat as a beginner.

The paramount rule when training in Aikido is to have respect and courtesy for the other people in the dojo. Respect and courtesy are given not only to the instructors and seniors but also to all other students and visitors to the dojo.

An atmosphere of cooperation - not competition - is called for. We cooperate in the sense that we are all here to help one another learn. This does not mean you must submit to another person's will, as some tend to think. It means we learn to operate together. This is necessary because the techniques in Aikido are dangerous. Severe injury can occur to yourself, your partner, or others on the mat if you aren't mindful and careful.

A true Aikidoka (student of Aikido) wishes to do no harm to anyone and prefers a peaceful resolution to any conflict. Therefore, skills developed in sensing trouble and avoiding it are preferred over the option of using the martial abilities one has developed. Sensitivity to situations, and trust in instinct and intuition, become the Aikdoka's best tools. These qualities are honed on the mat every time you begin working with your partner. In other words, when you are training, practice not only the technique that is demonstrated but also the art of sensing your partner's state of mind and being.

Five principles for learning Ki:

  1. Be flexible and open-minded.
  2. Never tire of training or repeating fundamentals.
  3. Be resourceful in applying Ki in your daily life.
  4. Change your subconscious mind.
  5. Learn it well enough to teach others.


Ki Principles

As well as the 'four basic principles for mind and body unification', there are a number of other sets of principles designed to help you in your training and Ki development.

Typically, each set contains five principles concerning a particular theme or area of practice. Each principle within the set addresses the same topic from a slightly different point of view. Some of these sets appear below while others appear in various places throughout this guide.

Often you will find that one of the principles is more relevant to you or easier for you to understand and apply at a particular time. This is as it should be, for we are all unique.